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VISIT LIVE! Co-founders of Albaray on launching a digital-first brand

Sophie Smith
19 September 2023

During LIVE! 'A New Era For Fashion E-commerce' in partnership with Noatum Logistics and Pocket Styler, a crowd of fashion industry professionals spent the day learning about the areas of innovation businesses should focus on to meet the demands of today's consumer and drive business forward for the future.

To finish the day's content, Paula Stewart and Kirstie De Stazio, Co-founders of Albaray, spoke with Lauretta Roberts, Editor-In-Chief at about launching a digital-first brand.


Kirstie De Stazio and Paula Stewart, Co-founders of Albaray

During 2020, the British high street lost a number of its best-known brands as the pandemic hit fashion hard. One brand impacted early on was Warehouse, which was placed into administration during the first lockdown. With the world in disarray, it proved difficult to sell as the brand and its website only were picked up by acquisitive online group Boohoo.

Three senior executives from Warehouse - Paula Stewart, Karen Peacock and Kirstie Di Stazio - however, went on to launch a new womenswear proposition, Albaray, in April 2021.

"Put simply, we create clothes that we want to wear and that we love. We want to curate the best aspects of somebody's wardrobe. It's thoughtful fashion designed for everyday," Stewart emphasised during the panel on Wednesday. 

Since its launch, Albaray has focussed on producing sustainably-sourced garments that are both modern and designed to stand the test of time. "This is something that we felt really strongly about," shared Stewart. "We are trying to be as responsible as we can be for a business our size. As we grow, I hope we can achieve even more."

She continued, emphasising the importance of delivering conscious clothing at an affordable price. "There's high street brands and there's bridge brands, but we felt there was something missing in between," she said. "We believed there was a gap in the market for items like dresses around the £100 price point."


Consumers can shop the brand's range of responsibly-made clothing via Albaray's direct-to-consumer website, as well as at Next, John Lewis and Marks & Spencer.

"These partnerships were initially digital, but now we are in the majority of John Lewis stores - this is going really well," shared De Stazio. "We were very lucky because we created strong relationships with a lot of our partners when we were working at Warehouse.

"Some of these partners had stocked Warehouse and it was a very good business for them - they lost that business just like we did - so I think they had confidence in us and we were really supported in the early days and essentially really lucky to continue the relationships."


As a digital-first brand, Albaray must bring its products to life virtually. "You have to be customer-centric and make sure the journey is perfect throughout the whole retail experience. Whether it's delivery, returns or getting our passion across online, the customer journey has to be seamless," emphasised Stewart.

"We do a lot of live styling. When we do things like this, our sales double, triple because our customers really enjoy seeing what our garments look like live on a model and the multiple ways you can wear them.

"We started the brand wanting to make sure everything was as versatile as possible. So, we could show a dress styled with flat shoes and a denim jacket, then perhaps a pair of kitten heels and a nice bag, for example. This is our way of trying to bring our offering to life before our customers receive the clothes."

Looking ahead, Stewart and De Stazio highlighted the importance of continuing to build brand awareness through personal touches and clever marketing. 

"At the beginning, our biggest challenge was how we were going to build brand awareness. We had no marketing in the first six months, but sales still did well on the back of press as I think we offered quite a positive story during the pandemic,"  De Stazio admitted. 

"However, we very quickly realised that this organic momentum wasn't going to last. So, we engaged with a digital marketing agency and actually invested quite a lot of time and money into marketing - really working to understand who our customer is and make sure we are communicating in the right way to build brand awareness and loyalty."

Describing this as a "big learning curve", Stewart and De Stazio have taken advantage of Albaray being a small business to test different ideas and strategies.  

"We've been able to experiment as we're a newer business and have a small team. This is really liberating as we can make decisions very quickly. We can be agile and, if you make a mistake, it's usually not big a deal but if it works that's amazing."

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